Ann Arbor / Washtenaw County - History

African American Cultural & Historical Museum of Washtenaw County Living Oral History

Find out more about our community’s history as the African American Cultural & Historical Museum of Washtenaw County unveils their “Living History” exhibit.

This panel exhibition is part of a collaboration with the Ann Arbor District Library and the Living Oral History Project, a collection of interviews illustrating what local African-Americans witnessed, experienced, and contributed to building the community we share today.

The project covered such topics as race; gender; education; equality, faith, housing, employment, community building activities, and social infrastructure. Each topic provided a spectrum of perspectives relevant to the issues and concerns of the African-American community in the history of 20th century Washtenaw County.

The panel exhibit, made possible with funding from The Michigan Humanities Council, features a selection of AACHM participants from the AACHM Living Oral History interviews along with additional interviews that will include residents from Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.

A public reception for the exhibit opening will take place from 3–5 pm on Sunday, March 26. The reception will also be an opportunity for a participatory experience for visitors through examination of the exhibit and sharing stories. The event includes refreshments and is cosponsored by the African American Cultural & Historical Museum of Washtenaw County.

Civil Defense and Disaster Preparedness

In 1951, President Harry S. Truman created the Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA). This was the Homeland Security Department of its day and it churned out films, brochures, and other propaganda materials purporting to protect Americans from nuclear bombs (as well as other fallout from the Cold War) in the name of national security.

From the 1950s through the 1970s, Americans turned away from the more practical civilian endeavors of the WWII era such as scrap collecting and bond drives to build fallout shelters and stockpile supplies or engage in atomic air raid and other civil defense drills. They even staged mock disasters.

In retrospect, some of this emergency preparedness seems a bit silly, but at least it gave Americans something to do in a time of international uncertainty - and Ann Arbor was no exception. Here is the Ann Arbor News“Civil Defense” photo negative collection for your viewing pleasure.

Celebrating Our Own Thing

Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Our Own Thing organization here in Ann Arbor. With Black History Month upon us, now is a great time to acknowledge the work of this incredible group started in 1968 by Dr. Willis C. Patterson, Singer A. "Bucky" Buchanan, Jon Lockard, and Vera Embree. Countless African-American students in the area have benefited from the cultural arts instruction provided by Our Own Thing, as well as their scholarship program which has sent numerous young artists and musicians to Interlochen Arts Academy. Watch the interview of Dr. Patterson from the AACHM (African American Cultural & Historical Museum) Living Oral History Project for a deeper look into the organization and the amazing man behind the scene.

Rotary Club of Ann Arbor: Celebrating 100 Years

The Rotary Club of Ann Arbor invites you to celebrate their 100th anniversary through this Downtown Library exhibit.

Founded in 1916, the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor (RCAA) has played a significant role in the life and activities of Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, and the world. Often identified as a town and gown club, the original group of 15 Charter members was comprised of citizens from the town and the University of Michigan. Currently, RCAA has 320 members, the largest Rotary Club in the state of Michigan. This current exhibit showcases its activities over the years, its growth of programs and membership, and highlights the universal access playground to be built in Gallup Park in 2017—a gift to the city of Ann Arbor in honor of RCAA’s 100-year celebration.

John Glenn: 1921-2016

John Glenn, American hero, U. S. senator, WWII and Korean War veteran, and icon of the Space Age, on the day he became the first American to orbit the earth.
Read the article.

Pearl Harbor Day Meets Ann Arbor, July 1943

Today we remember and honor the U. S. citizens who were killed in the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941. Here in Ann Arbor, a strange piece of Pearl Harbor history was paraded through our streets in the summer of 1943. Give a listen to the Ann Arbor Stories Podcast, The Suicide Sub Comes to Ann Arbor for the quirky details, and take a look at the newspaper's coverage of the Japanese Suicide Submarine Tour.

Eating the Pig: A Dinner Party in Poetry, Photography and Painting

This exhibition is a good example of how art happens: It happens out of daily life.

The 1970s at The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor was a good time for poetry. Every week or so there was a reading by a luminary in the field: Donald Hall (who taught at U of M), Robert Bly, Galway Kinnel, Joseph Brodsky, Jorge Luis Borges, to name but a few.

In October 1974 two undergraduates, Stephen Blos and Ric Burns, decided to roast a pig and host a dinner. They invited Donald Hall, Bert Hornback and Jane Kenyon, Don's second wife, along with half a dozen friends.

Stephen Blos took photographs of the dinner resulting in 24 images from the evening.
Don Hall used a tape-recorder to capture his impressions from the night before, which became his poem, Eating The Pig, published in 1975.

Stephen Blos went on to study photography at Hampshire College and move to NYC in 1979. He made his living as a photographer, and as a printer for other photographers such as Helen Levitt and Bruce Gilden, among others. Unfortunately, Stephen died in 1985 when he was thirty years old leaving hundreds of negatives.

Jane Kenyon became a well-known poet and translator of the Russian poet, Anna Anakmatova. Jane who lived in New Hampshire with Don, was the Poet Laureate of the state when she died in 1996 at age forty-seven.

Donald Hall lives at Eagle Pond Farm in New Hampshire. He was the Poet Laureate of the United States in 2006 and was awarded the Presidential Medal for the Arts in 2010. He and Sarah Innes met in 2015 to discuss showing the poem and photographs together. Sarah's sketches of their meeting in New Hampshire are included in the exhibit.

For more on the poem and the dinner party that inspired it, visit, where you can hear to Donald Hall read his poem or listen to an interview with Bert Hornback.

Election Day in Ann Arbor ~ 80 Years Ago

80 years ago, on November 3, the News posted this "Electoral Thermometer" on the outside of its new building at 340 E. Huron St. Total electoral votes were then 531, with 266 needed to win. At this point in the day, candidates Franklin D. Roosevelt (Democrat) and Alf Landon (Republican) are neck and neck. The car parked at lower right with ladders sticking out the back is from the Ann Arbor Window Cleaning Co, which is presumably how they adjusted the "thermometer" as returns came in.

(You can click on the image to bring up a slightly bigger version, then click on the image once more and choose the "X" in the lower right-hand corner to enlarge it further.)

Activist, Author and Politican Tom Hayden dies at 76

Tom Hayden in Chicago
Tom Hayden in Chicago, 1971, by Leni Sinclair

Activist, lawmaker, author, and politician Tom Hayden died yesterday at 76. Hayden took the hard route towards politics with his involvement with the University of Michigan's Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and helped write one of the most significant 20th century political manifestos: the Port Huron Statement. His participation in the disruption of the 1968 Democratic convention as one of the fabled "Chicago Seven" made him an international celebrity. Visits to Hanoi during the Vietnam War brought attention to the conflict in ways that were unpredictable at that time, and his marriage to Jane Fonda gave him a celebrity-status he never quite lived down.

Right or wrong, Hayden proved that one voice can make a difference in American politics. Conventionally unsuccessful, he nonetheless served as a model for democratic political participation in ways that more orthodox politicians would never have dared to attempt.

Watch AADL's 2014 video "A Call to Battle Against the Climate Crisis", Hayden's discussion on how Michigan and the Great Lakes region can move the U.S. towards the protections of a clean energy economy.

Deja Vu All Over Again? Record Turnout For 1964 Presidential Election In Ann Arbor

Poll Lines

On November 3, 1964, the voters of Ann Arbor came to the polls to vote for President of the United States . . . and they came and they came. When the City Clerk finished counting, a new voter turnout record was set at 29,409. The Ann Arbor News tallies for Washtenaw County showed a 16,000 vote advantage for President Johnson over Barry Goldwater, a trend that was mirrored nationwide. Ann Arbor and the County also set a record for ticket-splitting, handing Governor Romney a sizable victory over Ann Arbor's Neil Staebler.

In the lead-up to the election, the News published a voter education guide, What You Should Know To Make Your Vote Count In 1964. The Guide featured profiles of the federal candidates and statewide candidates for Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State and Attorney General. You'll see some very familiar names on the page. Included were civics lesson on Courts in Michigan, local elections and general elections. The 1964 election stood out for another reason: for the first time voters would elect the Governor and Lt. Governor as a team from the same political party. There was only one statewide ballot proposal and the question will be very familiar to voters in 2016.

Fast forwarding to 2016, the Michigan League of Women Voters has produced a non-partisan Voter Guide that is available at all AADL branches. The Ann Arbor League of Women Voters has been conducting local candidate forums that are available from the CTN Video On Demand page as well being rerun throughout the election cycle on Channel 19.

The Ann Arbor City Clerk has a web site with all the info you'll need to vote. The last day to register to vote is Tuesday, October 11, 2016. If you're not sure if you're registered or your voter information is up-to-date, check it out on the SOS Michigan Vote site. If you'd like to vote absentee, you can print off the Application for Absentee Ballot directly or stop by one of AADL's branches and we'll be happy to print it out for you.

Syndicate content